10 Alternatives to Columbus Day Celebrated Around the Country

Columbus Day has a complicated history, and many cities have recently voted to rename the annual holiday that falls the second Monday of October as Indigenous Peoples Day, honoring the native cultures that existed in North America long before Columbus arrived in 1492 and who were decimated by European colonization. In lieu of heading to a Columbus Day parade, consider these 10 alternative celebrations taking place across the country.

1. TEACH-IN AND FRIENDSHIP DANCE // BOULDER, COLORADO

gathering in a park
iStock

The White Horse Creek Council, a Denver-based preservation society for indigenous culture, is hosting a Mini Pow Wow, Teach-In and Friendship Dance at Boulder’s Central Park Bandshell. The October 9 event will include traditional dances with performances from the award-winning Plenty Wolf Singers. Visitors will also get a chance to learn a circle and friendship band and take in an oral retelling of Boulder's history from a Lakota elder.

2. INDIGENOUS PEOPLES WEEK // SEATTLE

Seattle
iStock

While other cities dedicate a day to honoring their Native American culture and history, Seattle sets aside an entire week, put on by groups like the Daybreak Star Indian Culture Center, the Seattle Indian Health Board, and local community colleges and universities. On October 9, there will be a march to City Hall, canning demonstrations, performances from Tahitian and Alaskan Native Dancers, guest speakers, and more.

3. NATIVE AMERICAN DAY AT THE CRAZY HORSE MEMORIAL // CRAZY HORSE, SOUTH DAKOTA

Crazy Horse Memorial
The Crazy Horse Memorial is located in South Dakota's Black Hills.
Jerry and Pat Donaho, Flickr // CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

South Dakota has celebrated Native American Day on the second Monday in October since 1990. It was the only state to vote not to observe Columbus Day state-wide until Vermont made the switch to Indigenous Peoples Day in 2017. The first celebration of the holiday was held at Crazy Horse Memorial in the Black Hills, a monument to the Lakota leader who defeated General George Custer at the Battle of Little Bighorn in 1876. The memorial still hosts an annual celebration with performances from Native American dancers, singers, artists, and storytellers. Visitors also receive a free buffalo stew lunch.

4. LIFE BEFORE COLUMBUS FESTIVAL // LOS ANGELES

Indigenous Peoples Day celebration in Los Angeles
A girl participates in an event celebrating Indigenous Peoples Day in the Hollywood area of Los Angeles on October 8, 2017.
David McNew / Stringer/ Getty Images

Los Angeles voted to make Indigenous Peoples Day a city-wide holiday for the first time in 2017, but organizations in the city had already been observing it before the official designation. The Gabrielino Tongva Springs Foundation—a cultural center and museum for the Gabrielino/Tongva Indians native to the Los Angeles Basin area—holds an annual Life Before Columbus festival at Kuruvungna Springs, a California historical landmark. The arts festival features traditional singers and dancers, Native American foods, and workshops and exhibitions on crafting items like reed baskets and traditional Native toys.

5. RETHINKING COLUMBUS DAY // RANDALL'S ISLAND, NEW YORK CITY

Randall's Island
Randall's Island
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Each year, the Redhawk Native American Arts Council throws a free celebration on New York City’s Randall’s Island for Indigenous Peoples Day. The two-day event includes an overnight camp out, a sunrise ceremony, spoken word performances, guest talks from activists and cultural groups, and more. The 2017 festival is dedicated to honoring water protectors, according to the event page.

6. INDIGENOUS PEOPLE'S DAY MUSIC & ART SHOWCASE // SAINT PAUL, MINNESOTA

Saint Paul Minnesota
Saint Paul, Minnesota
iStock

Electric Machete Studios, an art gallery in Saint Paul, is throwing its 14th-annual concert series on October 12. Formerly called the Anti-Columbus Day Concert, it was founded to use “hip hop and community action to raise awareness around the effects of colonization on communities of color and celebrate indigenous culture through art and music.” There will be more than eight musical performers throughout the evening.

7. SANTA FE INDIGENOUS PEOPLES DAY CELEBRATION // SANTA FE, NEW MEXICO

2017 Santa Fe Indian Market
The 2017 Santa Fe Indian Market, located in the historic Santa Fe Plaza
iStock

New Mexico, home to 23 different Native American tribes, voted in 2016 to begin recognizing Indigenous Peoples Day. The central Santa Fe Plaza will play host to an all-day celebration on October 9 as well as weekend dance performances. The Monday festivities include morning flute and drum songs and 10 different dances throughout the day.

8. DECOLONIZATION CELEBRATION // ASHLAND, OREGON

Ashland Oregon
Ashland, Oregon

In honor of Ashland’s inaugural Indigenous Peoples Day, groups like Southern Oregon University (SOU), the Oregon Shakespeare Festival, and a local grassroots organization called the Red Earth Descendants are holding events like a salmon bake social, a drama workshop, and a performance of the Oregon Shakespeare Festival’s first play by a Native American writer, which turns the Bard’s Measure for Measure into a Western exploring the legacy of Indian boarding schools.

9. TULSA NATIVE AMERICAN DAY CELEBRATION // TULSA, OKLAHOMA

Tulsa, Oklahoma
Tulsa, Oklahoma
iStock

Tulsa’s first-annual Native American Day celebration will be held in the city’s downtown arts district. The inter-tribal gathering will include a meet and greet, reading of the city’s Native America Day resolution, prayers, exhibition dances, and songs, with speeches by several Native American leaders. According to census data, the area is home to around 30,000 Native Americans, and the city includes the boundaries of three different nations.

10. BERKELEY POW-WOW AND INDIAN MARKET //BERKELEY, CALIFORNIA

2016 Indigenous Peoples Day Berkley California
Berkley's 2016 Indigenous Peoples Day Celebration

If you miss out on October 9 celebrations, head over to Berkeley, California’s 25th anniversary Indigenous Peoples Day festival, which takes place a little after the day itself on October 14. The annual Pow Wow and Indian Market includes a variety of contests, giveaways, performances, and arts and crafts, including an owl dance contest, a “prettiest shawl” contest, and intertribal dance performances.

Delight the Kids In Your Life by Calling Santa on Your Smart Home Device

iStock.com/adamkaz
iStock.com/adamkaz

If you’ve got a smart home device, Santa may be coming early this year. You and the true believers in your life can ring up St. Nick with both Google Home and Amazon’s Alexa devices. Here’s how.

If you live in a Google-equipped house, you can say “Hey Google, call Santa.” As Lifehacker reports, you’ll hear a dial tone, then the voice of an elf will come on, promising to transfer you to the big man himself. Santa will then tell you that he needs help with his holiday musical, asking you various questions about potential music choices. After you answer all the questions, he’ll incorporate your answers into a holiday song. (It also works with the Google Assistant on your phone, where you’ll get some graphics to go along with the experience.)

Alexa can help you and your favorite youngsters connect to Santa, too. You’ll need to enable Amazon’s kid-friendly FreeTime, according to Digital Trends, after which you can just say “Alexa, call Santa.” An elf or some other holiday helper will answer, then Alexa will ask for Santa. A pre-recorded exchange between the virtual assistant and Santa will ensue, because naturally, Santa’s too busy in mid-December to take all his calls.

If Christmas music is your jam, you can enable Alexa’s iHeartRadio skill and ask Alexa to “talk to Santa Claus,” who will then ask you a series of questions before coming up with a personalized holiday playlist for you.

As Christmas gets closer, you can track the whereabouts of your presents with either Google Home or Alexa. For Google Home, you just need to ask, “Hey Google, where’s Santa?” to get Santa Tracker updates. For Alexa, enable the NORAD Tracks Santa skill and say, “Alexa, ask NORAD Tracks Santa, where’s Santa?” to get an update from the North American Aerospace Defense Command on St. Nick’s location.

Why Does Santa Claus Give Coal to Bad Kids?

iStock/bonchan
iStock/bonchan

The tradition of giving misbehaving children lumps of fossil fuel predates the Santa we know, and is also associated with St. Nicholas, Sinterklaas, and Italy’s La Befana. Though there doesn't seem to be one specific legend or history about any of these figures that gives a concrete reason for doling out coal specifically, the common thread between all of them seems to be convenience.

Santa and La Befana both get into people’s homes via the fireplace chimney and leave gifts in stockings hung from the mantel. Sinterklaas’s controversial assistant, Black Pete, also comes down the chimney and places gifts in shoes left out near the fireplace. St. Nick used to come in the window, and then switched to the chimney when they became common in Europe. Like Sinterklaas, his presents are traditionally slipped into shoes sitting by the fire.

So, let’s step into the speculation zone: All of these characters are tied to the fireplace. When filling the stockings or the shoes, the holiday gift givers sometimes run into a kid who doesn’t deserve a present. So to send a message and encourage better behavior next year, they leave something less desirable than the usual toys, money, or candy—and the fireplace would seem to make an easy and obvious source of non-presents. All the individual would need to do is reach down into the fireplace and grab a lump of coal. (While many people think of fireplaces burning wood logs, coal-fired ones were very common during the 19th and early 20th centuries, which is when the American Santa mythos was being established.)

That said, with the exception of Santa, none of these characters limits himself to coal when it comes to bad kids. They’ve also been said to leave bundles of twigs, bags of salt, garlic, and onions, which suggests that they’re less reluctant than Santa to haul their bad kid gifts around all night in addition to the good presents.

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